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Anti–Social Media Social Media Club
Exploring the new landscape for online conversations
Welcome to those of you who signed up after the launch of The Frontier Magazine Podcast! I’m glad to have you on board for these weekly missives from the edges of culture. Today I’m expanding on the interview with Erin Kissane released on Monday with new social-media platforms to try, a great new tech-journalism site, and a funny and thought-provoking single-purpose app.
What social platforms (if any!) are you finding nourishing these days? Tag me somewhere, or hit reply, so I can follow your own adventures through the social-media landscape.
Love all ways,
Anti–Social Media Social Media Club
The yearlong leadership-inflicted demolition of Twitter has been, for me, both a practical and an emotional loss. I won’t dwell on the details, since many others have insights into and opinions about what’s going on—and what’s still to come. As usual, I’ve kept up so you don’t have to, and here’s the tip of a very deep iceberg: Stratechery, Eugene Wei, The Atlantic, New Public, The Generalist, Simon Sarris, John Herrman in New York Magazine.
Erin Kissane wrote a post titled “Ditching Twitter” in 2014 and for decades has thought deeply about how to nourish safe and vibrant online communities. My conversation with her, as well as several of her recent essays on the topic, prompts me to offer some alternative platforms I am exploring.
Mastodon. Launched in 2016, Mastodon is free and open-source software that allows you to run your own network and “federate” with others. A vanishingly small number of people are willing and able to do this, so, practically, what you do is find and join an existing server that seems aligned with your values and interests. (As Kissane notes, even this can be challenging.) From my Twitter timeline, this is where tech-savvy people concerned about corporate ethics have landed, with a side helping of type designers. Find me at @firstname.lastname@example.org. To access my feed, I use Phanpy, a fast, well-designed web client; many others love the apps Ivory and Mona.
Bluesky. Another “decentralized” protocol, this one emerged as an initiative from within Twitter and, though still invite-only, has the most Twitter-like experience: the shitposters showed up early, the memes traverse the network like flocks of starlings, and even Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez showed up (though she hasn’t posted in two months). Its architecture offers many feed-customization options. If you’re curious, I’m happy to share my six invite codes first-come first-served with whoever replies to ask for one. Find me @sholis.com.
Posts.cv. I interviewed Andy Chung, the founder of Read.cv and its related social network, back in June. Chung is a product designer and a good community-builder; Posts has rapidly evolved a into a place for designers and other creatives to share in-progress work, inspirations, and well-composed snapshots of their lives. I appreciate its supportive, feel-good vibes. Find me @briansholis.
Threads. If I can’t yet tear myself from Twitter—later this week it’s going to begin collecting biometric data and job histories!—then I probably shouldn’t turn my nose up at Facebook’s Threads, launched this spring as a direct competitor. It’s evolving a split identity: half corporate accounts trying to be funny, half good conversation with people who appreciate the ease of re-creating their social graphs and the smooth user experience. Find me @frontier.is.
Why is all this important? As Kissane put it, back in June: “I still think getting our networks right—or at least making them better and putting them in service to the life and health of the world—is critical to the work required to get more of us safely to the other side of the next ten, twenty, thirty years.”
A recommendation: 404 Media
Earlier this year, Vice Media, a company valued in 2017 at $5.7 billion, collapsed spectacularly, filing for bankruptcy protection and putting many people out of work. Last month, four of them who edited and wrote for Motherboard, its beloved tech-journalism vertical, struck out on their own, launching 404 Media.
“It’s not about the business of technology,” writer Emanuel Maiberg told the New York Times. “It’s about how it impacts real people in the real world.” They’ve come flying out of the gate with some remarkable stories: a buzzy AI startup using human labor to create 3D models; a digital loophole allowing people to track others’ movements through the NYC subway; and the presence of ads for illegal products on Instagram.
Its journalism has had real consequences, with companies and governments shifting policies in response to 404’s revelations. That this is all being done by a small team, and one that owns the company, is yet another reason to celebrate—and follow along.
Etter Studio, in Zurich, has created products and experiences for Google, Hermes, IBM, AT&T, and more. It has also just launched Slow Scroll, a fun iOS app that does one thing only: scrolls a website when you walk.
It uses the phone’s rear camera to track your progress along the floor or ground, and therefore scrolls down when you walk forward and scrolls back up when you reverse direction. As founder Chrigi Etter writes, “Rather than imposing screen time limits, a subtler approach appeared more appealing: reducing content by decelerating its consumption.” Download it here on the App Store. Just don’t use it in a busy place!
🔗 Good Links
📜 The goal “is to increase the capability landscape.” Reggie James offers a New Technologist Manifesto.
⛪ The protest signs depict “the kinds of things no one should have to march to achieve, because no one could reasonably oppose them. Which, I think, is Marshall’s point.” Greg Allen on the stained-glass windows designed by artist Kerry James Marshall for the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
🇳🇴 Friends know my love of Bergen, Norway and of city biking. I’ll have to revisit, because Bergen recently unveiled “the world’s longest purpose-built cycling tunnel,” which slices through a mountain.
📸 With her focus on colonialism, scholar Ariella Azoulay has reshaped the ways we think about photography. In this fourteen-minute video, she distills some of her ideas.
🕴🏻Fashion retailer COS unveils flagships in Stockholm and Mexico City that take seriously a commitment to circular design.